Does our scientific knowledge of the evolving universe stand in conflict with religious faith in a creator?
The Rev. George V. Coyne of Le Moyne College addressed that question, and the importance of respecting the richness of religious faith and scientific research, in the semiannual Beggs Lecture on Science, Spirituality and Society, Monday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. in Sage Chapel.
Coyne is the McDevitt Professor of Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne and a former director of the Vatican Observatory. His talk, “The Dance of the Fertile Universe: An Interplay of Science and Religion,” was presented by Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) and was free and open to the public.
“The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and it contains about 100 billion galaxies, each of which contains on the average 200 billion stars of an immense variety,” Coyne writes. “As these stars live and die, they provide the chemicals necessary for the evolution of life. We came to be in this universe. Did we come about by chance or by necessity?”
Another important element, he says, is “what we might call the ‘fertility’ of the universe. By science we see the dance of the fertile universe, a ballet with three ballerinas: chance, necessity and fertility. In this light I am going to present in broad strokes what I think is some of the best of our modern scientific understanding of the universe, and then I will ask the question at the end: ‘Did God do it?’”
The Robert W. and Mabel De Motte Beggs Lectureship on Science, Spirituality and Society is named for a former CURW chaplain and his wife, both of whom were firm believers in cooperation and understanding among diverse religions. Upon their deaths they bequeathed an endowment for a lectureship on topics in ethics and public policy, comparative religions and the interplay between science and religion. Beggs conceived of the lectureship as hosting speakers who illustrate how “science and religious spirituality can work hand-in-hand for a better world society.”
This article was written by Daniel Aloi and appeared in the Cornell Chronicle on November 5, 2013.